Last week, the United States House Committee on Financial Services passed a bill that would improve language access services during the mortgage lending process. If passed into law, the Improving Language Access in Mortgage Servicing Act (H.R. 3009) will require the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide mortgage lenders and bankers with a framework and tools to improve language access services for borrowers with limited English proficiency (LEP).
Introduced by Representative Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), the bill aims to make housing more attainable for individuals with LEP, who have often been left behind or disenfranchised by the language barrier.
“Sadly, for far too long, our communities have been left behind. Entire families have experienced the stress and difficulty that language barriers put on their shoulders when buying a home, accessing a loan, or engaging with loan servicing companies,” Rep. Garcia said.
The bill is also co-sponsored by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), and passed in its committee by a narrow vote of 29-24. Proponents of the bill believe that the government should make the home buying process easier and more fair — H.R. 3009 is one of the first steps toward doing this, as it will make the process more navigable for individuals who do not use English frequently or struggle with the language.
“It is time to make language accessibility the norm and not the exception,” Rep. Garcia said. “H.R. 3009 is a step in that direction, and we will continue pushing this issue and improving the way our families interact with services and companies which deeply affect their lives and their capacity to thrive in our society.”
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) published a letter to the committee on May 12, arguing that, while language access should be improved, it will be difficult to do so. There is currently a translation clearinghouse which many lenders use to provide translations into Spanish, however many other languages are not currently accessible on the platform. The MBA suggested in its letter that this clearinghouse ought to be expanded significantly, however they also proposed that the act be amended to place limits on which languages lenders must make available to consumers, since the majority of residents with LEP speak a relatively small handful of languages.